Louisiana court allows reporter's privilege for author of book about slaying

Reporter's Privilege | Feature | February 8, 1994

Louisiana court allows reporter's privilege for author of book about slaying

02/08/1994

LOUISIANA -- A book author may assert a qualified reporter's privilege under the First Amendment and the Louisiana Constitution, a state appeals court in Gretna ruled in late January.

Joseph Bosco, the author of Blood Will Tell, a recently published book about a killing, has refused to testify at a hearing for a new trial sought by William Fontanille, who was convicted of manslaughter in the case.

Fontanille claims that Kerry Myers, another man convicted in the case, was improperly shown Fontanille's written statement to the police before Myers gave a statement. Myers denied this at Fontanille's hearing for a new trial. Because Bosco interviewed Myers for his book, Fontanille seeks Bosco's testimony and tapes to contradict what Myers said in court.

In early November the trial court judge in Gretna found Bosco in contempt and ordered him to jail. The appeals court stayed that ruling pending its review.

The appeals court ruled 2-1 that Bosco may assert a qualified constitutional privilege. One of judges in the majority also said that Bosco could invoke the state's shield law; the other did not decide that question. The court remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing to determine if Fontanille's need for the information can overcome the qualified privilege.

Fontanille appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans in late January. The court stayed further proceedings in the case while it decides whether to hear the appeal.

(Louisiana v. Fontanille; Media Counsel: Sidney Cotlar, New Orleans)